Washington: An Indian grandfather slammed to the ground by an Alabama police officer last February told him “no English” five times and said “India” three times, according to US prosecutors.
Sureshbhai Patel, who had arrived days earlier from India to take care of his grandson, also pointed to his son’s home and kept trying to walk officers toward the home, Assistant US Attorney Robert Posey told a Madison jury on Tuesday.
Mr Patel, who does not speak English, made no sudden movements, he said in the prosecution’s opening statement at the retrial of former Madison Officer Eric Parker charged with deprivation of rights under colour of law, according to local Al.com.
Parker’s first trial ended early last month with a hung jury, as the jury split 10-2 in favour of acquittal.
“Then Parker starts threatening Mr Patel,” said Posey, introducing a new line of argument. Posey told the jury how Parker ordered Mr Patel to stop jerking around although Mr Patel appears to be standing still.
“Parker kicks Mr. Patel’s leg out from under him and at the same time pushes his head and shoulders full force into the frozen ground,” said Posey.
Posey argued that “an old, skinny grandfather” was left paralysed on the ground one minute and 41 seconds after encountering police, that there were other options, including handcuffing Mr Patel.
Defence attorney Robert Tuten, on the other hand, told the jury that the escalation of force was largely the fault of Mr Patel.
“When you come to the US we expect you to follow our laws and speak our language,” said Tuten. “Mr Patel bears as much responsibility for this as anyone.”
Mr Patel speaks Gujarati and has testified he does not understand English. But Tuten said Mr Patel understands the word “stop,” yet he walked two steps, then seven steps and then nine more steps as police attempted to question him.
Mr Patel, who had visited his son off and on and had spent about eight months in the US before the February 6 takedown recognized the police, but walked off anyway, he said.
Tuten said Mr Patel reached for his pockets, which could have contained a weapon. “He refused to take his hands out of his pockets.”
Tuten argued that police can’t know if a person is reaching for a gun or a knife or a razor blade. He said police are trained to control the hands for officer safety.
“There are people out there in the world that will kill a police officer just because they are a cop,” Tuten told the jury.
The injuries were unfortunate, but the takedown was not criminal, said Tuten, echoing his opening from last trial: “From the very beginning, let me say this a tragic situation and everybody feels real bad for Mr Patel.”
He added: “It’s unfortunate that he didn’t speak English. But in America that’s the language that we speak.”
Federal prosecutors told the jury that Parker didn’t bring up whether Mr Patel put his hands in his pockets until after he had to explain the awkward leg sweep.
Posey asked the jury to review the evidence and decide whether there was any danger to the officer.
“In this case, the evidence will show that Parker’s use of force was unreasonable and he knew it.”